NASA Shares Heartbreaking Photos From Space To Commemorate 9/11

NASA 9/11 photos from space
NASA

Seventeen years after the terrible tragedy that struck New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania, NASA commemorates the 9/11 anniversary by sharing heartbreaking photos taken from space on the day of the terrorist attack.

The incredible photos show New York City from the unique vantage point of the International Space Station (ISS) and were captured by Expedition 3 Commander Frank Culbertson — the only American who wasn’t on planet Earth at the time of the attacks, space agency officials stated earlier today.

Since the space station was flying over the New York City area at the time the 2001 tragedy occurred, Culbertson spent the minutes and hours after the terrible event documenting it in photographs. The U.S. astronaut also penned down his thoughts on what he was witnessing from orbit in a public letter, published on the NASA website.

The photo embedded above was taken by Culbertson on the morning of September 11, 2001, and shows a smoke plume rising from the Manhattan area after the collapse of the World Trade Center twin towers.

“It’s horrible to see smoke pouring from wounds in your own country from such a fantastic vantage point,” Culbertson wrote on September 12, 2001.

“The dichotomy of being on a spacecraft dedicated to improving life on the earth and watching life being destroyed by such willful, terrible acts is jolting to the psyche, no matter who you are. And the knowledge that everything will be different than when we launched by the time we land is a little disconcerting,” reads the public letter signed by the astronaut.

In remembrance of 9/11, NASA also shared a satellite image captured a few hours after the 2001 terrorist attack. Acquired with the Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the agency’s Terra satellite, the photo (given below) shows a large plume of smoke streaming southward from the remnants of the burning World Trade Towers.

NASA 9/11 space photos
The MODIS instrument aboard NASA’s Terra satellite shows the vegetation (red), concrete (light blue-white), and the surrounding bodies of water (black). The slightly darker blue pixels show the smoke and debris moving toward New Jersey. Liam Gumley, MODIS Atmosphere Group, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison / NASA

Another satellite image taken on September 12, 2001, at around 11.30 a.m. EDT reveals the aftermath of the attack on World Trade Center. Captured by the Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) aboard the Landsat 7 satellite, the image unveils the smoke column still billowing from ground zero.

NASA 9/11 space photos
True-color image was taken by the Landsat 7 satellite. USGS Landsat 7 team, at the EROS Data Center / NASA

“Today we remember the victims, survivors and heroes of #September11th,” NASA officials wrote on Twitter, posting a new photo of New York City taken from space on June 19 of this year by U.S. astronaut Ricky Arnold.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, also made a touching tribute to the victims of 9/11 by sharing a photo of their memorial on Mars.

The image was taken on February 2, 2004, by the panoramic camera on the Spirit Mars Rover and shows a piece of hardware with the American flag “made of aluminum recovered from the site of the World Trade Center towers in the weeks after their destruction,” reports NASA. According to the space agency, an identical piece of hardware was mounted on the Opportunity rover to mark an “interplanetary memorial” for those fallen during the 2001 terrorist attack.